Does Full Circle Have a Farm?
For a few months now you’ve seen me pick apart a variety of vegetables and fantastic fruits, with an eye for discovering new and interesting things. For this week’s post I’m taking a look back at the history of the Full Circle Farm. To answer the question directly: Yes, Full Circle indeed has a farm, and to quote my favorite person here, it’s quite lovely.
Full Circle’s agricultural operations take place on three farms just thirty miles east of Seattle, in the Snoqualmie and Sammamish River valleys. Griffin Creek and Ames Creek are situated on either side of the town of Carnation, and Willows/Button is in unincorporated King County near Redmond. Between the three, we farm approximately 450 acres of rich bottomland. We grow 60 different crops and about 150 varieties, many of them year-round in our mild Northwest climate. Like so much of Western Washington farmland, all of our locations were previously dairy pasture. We strive to maintain both the agricultural heritage and unique historical character of each farm.
1. Griffin Creek
The historic red barn at our Griffin Creek property marks the center of farming operations for Full Circle. Stewarded for a generation by dairyman Bill Knudsen, it was the first acreage to be farmed by Wendy and Andrew after they moved from their original 5 rocky acres beneath Mt. Si.
Here at the home farm we cultivate roughly 135 acres, with a large proportion of our land uncultivated as a natural riparian zone which provides open space and habitat for native plants, beneficial insects, and many species of wildlife.
Flowing westward alongside our packing shed and fields is Griffin Creek, the major producer of Coho salmon in the Snoqualmie River system and an important habitat for many other salmon species. The creek provides a restful space for hardworking folk to take a break and enjoy a bit of nature.
The Snoqualmie River at the western end of the farm is a series of oxbows and off-channel still spots which are a safe haven and rearing-ground for young salmon whose predecessors travel to familial spawning grounds up Griffin Creek each November.
Full Circle maintains a working relationship with Stewardship Partners, restoring and maintaining native salmon habitat, and was one of the first Washington farms to obtain Salmon Safe certification in 2004.
2. Ames Creek
Nestled amid working dairy farms whose curious cows graze contentedly in adjacent pastures, Ames Creek is the largest of the three farms. This 197-acre parcel was acquired in 2006 as part of the PCC Farmland Trust, a non-profit organization which preserves agricultural land for organic cultivation.
Crisscrossed by creeks and channels, and a stone’s throw from the Snoqualmie River on the north end, its high water table allows us to grow our potatoes and hot-weather crops such as cucumber, squash, and eggplant five months of the year with minimal irrigation. This part of the valley is open, flat and low lying, and is home to kestrels, harriers, and other raptors as well as overwintering waterfowl.
Added to our acreage in 2010, the Willows farm near Redmond lies along the banks of the Sammamish River between Redmond and Woodinville. This part of King County was settled in 1871, as European immigrants cleared the land for dairy and vegetable farming, and a few of these family-owned farms remain today. Willows was a working dairy and its old barn and outbuildings are still shared with former owner Bob Mueller.
It was also a former ‘Lazy Husband Farm’. Beginning in 1913, Washington State law sentenced negligent fathers to such farms to support their families. The men were paid about $1.50 per day and the money was given directly to the men’s wives.
The Willows farm handled Lazy Husband’s Act offenders in the Seattle area. In 1920, the work farm was known variously as “The Willows,” the “County Farm,” the “Willows Stockade,” or the “Lazy Husband’s Farm.” Prisoners grew crops or tended dairy cattle at the farm, until it was closed in 1932 and prisoners were transferred to the county jail.
Today, the Willows farm is nearly picture perfect with its long, neat rows of cabbages, broccoli, radicchio, and many other vegetable crops. Its agricultural heritage and historical value preserved for future generations.
What’s Going on Today?
I find the history of any working farm to be fascinating, but I know a lot of you want to hear what is going on there NOW. Well, let me tell you, at the moment it’s a beehive of activity.
Griffin Creek has arugula already coming out of the ground, with beets and carrots aching to arrive at the end of the month. Bok Choy and broccoli are already part of the harvesting mix, while Collard greens and fennel are just around the corner. Kale has already emerged along with Mustard greens, and the onions are queuing up for their turn in July. Full Circle radishes and turnips are showing up at participating Farmers Markets and we’ll see Sunchokes towards the end of summer.
Ames Creek is growing some delectable delights along the lines of specialty Melons, Red potatoes and Tomatillos.
Willows has beans, cabbage, lettuce and broccoli in the ground and readying for harvest in July. August will be bountiful baskets of the same. It’s a delicious time of the year on all of the Full Circle farms.
Bet You Didn’t Know:
At one point, early in their farming career, Andrew & Wendy were harvesting potatoes at midnight using the lights from their pickup truck to see by.
The best way to see how beautiful the Full Circle Farms are is to go and visit one. We have public tours every Friday and Saturday until October. You can register by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org